The sad case of a brain-dead girl in Oakland, Calif., took a new turn on Sunday evening, when an ambulance transferred 13-year-old Jahi McMath to a long-term care facility. Although McMath’s family would not disclose the name of the facility, they say the girl will receive a tracheostomy and feeding tube. The move marks an end to a battle between the family and Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland, which had been attempting to remove life support from an unresponsive patient they consider to be dead.
“Jahi is free! Jahi is free! She is safely out of Children’s,” tweeted Christopher Dolan, the family’s lawyer, on Monday.
Over Christmas and New Year’s, the McMath case grabbed headlines and roused emotions from Americans, who either defended the hospital’s attempt to remove the girl’s ventilator or defended the family’s effort keep her organs alive. Pro-life advocates, too, are divided: Some compare the case to that of Terri Schiavo, who was dehydrated and starved to death in 2005 after a lengthy court battle. Others say the key difference for McMath is that she has irreversible brain death.
“Someone who’s truly brain-dead, barring a miracle, is not going to walk out of the hospital,” David Stevens, a doctor and CEO of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, told me. “They’re not going to get better. The brain has ceased to function even though their body functions otherwise are being sustained by respirator,” and other medical tools.
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